Earlier this summer, one terribly bitter Seattle cop gained a lot of media attention and also caught a lot of flak for issuing too many marijuana tickets. Randy Jokela was single-handedly responsible for writing 80 percent of the total number of tickets for the entire city within a just a few months. Reports reveal that the cop had a personal stance against the new laws in Washington and decided to take matters into his own hands by arbitrarily punishing residents at his own convenience.
The information was discovered by law enforcement staff while preparing date for the Seattle Police Department’s biannual report. Evidence revealed snarky notes on issued tickets that indicated that, in some cases, Jokela literally flipped a coin to determine whether or not a person was going to get a ticket for smoking cannabis in public. In other cases, the officer disrespectfully addressed the tickets to “Petey Holmes,” the city attorney.
“The issue here isn’t issuing the citations, it is the reason and the intent behind issuing the citations,” said Carmen Best, a spokeswoman for the Seattle Police Department.
Almost one-third of tickets were issued to black people, a demographic that only makes up 8 percent of the population, while another notable portion of tickets were given to homeless people or those who listed transitional housing as their home address.
Following the unsavory findings, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole requested all tickets issued by Jokela be dropped. Accordingly, City Attorney Peter Holmes has agreed that all tickets issued between Jan. 1 and July 31 will be dismissed and anyone who has paid their $27 fine will have their money refunded.
By law, when a person is caught smoking pot in public in Washington, law enforcement has the option to either issue a warning or write a ticket for a $27 fine, although tickets are viewed as a last resort. The police department has released new directives for officers, encouraging them to give verbal warnings before issuing citations and not to issue citations for cannabis use on private property, even when others can see it. Officers have also been advised not to seize the marijuana.
“The goal all along has been not to issue tickets as much as to change behavior,” Holmes said.
Have you had issues with local law enforcement for smoking cannabis in your state? Tell us about your experience.